The Pecorino Pages. Discovering, Tasting, and Pairing A Great Italian Wine.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Italy’s beautiful Le Marche region on two occasions (so far). Actually, I’ve been there two-and-a-half times. On the first trip I ran into a slight inconvenience at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci (Fiumicino) airport.
A good friend of mine, while shuttling me to Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson to catch the flight over, asked: “Did you remember your passport?” Being a Flight Attendant for Air Canada, she’s good about pre-flight checklists. And knowing me well enough to know I’d forget my name if it wasn’t sewn into my clothing, she wasn’t taking any chances. “Damn right I did!” I cavalierly retorted while patting my shirt pocket. Damn right I had my passport.
First my passport was examined when I got my boarding pass. Then it was perused again before boarding. But, of course, it had to be in Rome while attempting to get on my flight to Ancona in Le Marche that it got reviewed again. In detail. “This passport has expired,” the customs woman said in a more or less “you idiot,” tone of voice. “You’re going home.”
As much as I love Italy, I’m less than enthused about the Fiumicino airport. It was June. It was hot. The ceilings were low. And the whole operation ceased operation at 10:00 pm. But I was stuck there until i was “deported” about 36 hours later. The Canadian Embassy in Rome couldn’t help. The airport police couldn’t be bribed (believe me, I tried), and my contacts in Le Marche had about as much luck with the police as I did.
Needless to say, when I finally arrived back in Toronto disheveled, exhausted, jet-lagged, and without my luggage (it travelled on to Ancona – and probably spent a few relaxing days sunning on the beach before returning home), I had a couple rather embarrassing calls to make. One to my editor to explain that the first-hand experience I was hoping for to help me with my story didn’t exactly happen. Another to my friends in Italy to apologize for being a moron. It had been 53 hours since I left Toronto – with virtually no food, no sleep, no change of clothes and nowhere near enough booze or pills to make the whole nightmare tolerable. I went to the bathroom, threw up, and stayed sick as a dog for three days. “Ah, in a while you’ll laugh at this,” assured a British chap sitting beside me while at a bar in the Rome airport (before it closed). Well, it’s been seven years and I still shudder when i think about the whole airport thing.
As luck would have it, the Italians felt as bad about the mess as I did, and offered to fly me back a few months later. Turns out, the experience was even better than it would’ve been if I hadn’t screwed up. This time, it was just me. No entourage of media types elbowing each other to get closer to the booze. I got a more leisurely tour, a better hotel right by the sea, much more comfortable weather, and a young woman as a personal driver/translator/winery liaison who was, much like the surrounding landscape, not at all hard to look at.
The stunning scenery, equally stunning food, and fantastic hospitality made me an instant fan of all things Marchese. Then there were the wines. Magnificent reds and refreshing sparklers made from the Passerina grape. But what really piqued my interest were the white wines made from the indigenous Pecorino variety – a variety that was almost lost to antiquity had it not been for the vision, passion and foresight of Guido Cocci Grifoni, who literally saved it from extinction. Today, Pecorino is the basis for what many contend is Le Marche’s most unique, distinctive and, of course, delicious wine.
The new generation of leaders at Tenuta Cocci Grifoni – Diana, Marilena and Paola – continue Guido’s work and honour his legacy, fashioning intense, complex and age-worthy Pecorino wines, as well as a host of other regional reds and whites. Recently, they crafted another unique contribution to the world of food and wine: the book, Pecorino: Discovering, Tasting, and Pairing A Great Italian Wine.
Divided into three sections: Wine, Winemaking, and Recipes, it’s an evocatively written, beautifully photographed piece that will make you an instant Pecorino expert as you are guided though the grape’s lineage, winemaking techniques, storing, serving, tasting and pairing.
And speaking of pairing, what makes the book a complete “Pecorino experience” are the many recipes (over 30 and all mouth-wateringly photographed) that are grouped into three categories: cucine di terroir (regional dishes – including a recipe for the addictive Olive Farcite Ascolane – stuffed fried Ascolano olives); cucine Italiane (Italian cuisine); and cucine del mondo (world cuisine). That a single wine – Pecorino – can pair successfully with such a diverse range of food preparations is testament to the wine’s extreme versatility and adaptability.
The book is currently available free from the iBooks store (search Pecorino book) while the Cocci-Grifonis explore ways to bring the printed book into wide distribution. Considering the success they’ve had spreading the gospel of the Pecorino grape, so the book will no doubt soon find its way to markets around the world.